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GLOBAL COLLABORATIVE WORK WITH EPALS

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Педагогика и дидактика

An outstanding American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer John Dewey perfectly said, "Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself." We are in an era in which teachers and books are not the only sources of information and lectures are not the only method for delivering and acquiring knowledge. Learning in the 21st century requires critical thinking, adept use of technology...

Английский

2014-02-19

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GLOBAL COLLABORATIVE WORK WITH EPALS

By Svitlana Maliy

Introduction

Over the past few years, the Internet has arisen as a prominent new technology. The influence of such a powerful technological tool has penetrated all aspects of the educational, business, and economic sectors of the world.

An outstanding American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer John Dewey perfectly said, "Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself." We are in an era in which teachers and books are not the only sources of information and lectures are not the only method for delivering and acquiring knowledge. Learning in the 21st century requires critical thinking, adept use of technology, and global collaboration, and we should offer all these to our students on a regular basis. Schools and teachers must be challenged to use the tools and techniques of today, not the ones of the past.

Regardless of whether one uses the Internet or not, one must be clear about the fact that we have entered a new information age and the Internet is here to stay.

I teach English to middle and senior students in Nikopol, Ukraine. My students are 14 – 17 years old. I have been an English teacher for 15 years.

Since 2010, I have been using global collaboration as a teaching tool.

The idea of starting a penpal project occurred when I was looking for an educational theme for the following school year. I happened to find the link to ePals site: http://www.epals.com/

What is ePals

EPals, Inc. is the World's Largest K-12 Learning Network. It offers K-12 schools, teachers, students and parents a safe and secure global online communications and collaboration platform for building educational communities, providing quality digital content and facilitating 21st century learning.

Products for Schools & Districts:

ePals LearningSpace is a safe virtual workspace optimized for K-12 communication and collaboration

The ePals Global Community is the world's largest network of K-12 classrooms, enabling students and teachers to safely connect and collaborate on projects with classrooms worldwide.

ePals SchoolMail365® is next generation email and communications for Schools and Districts.

In2Books is ePals' curriculum-based e-mentoring program for students in grades 3 through 5.

Strategic Partners:

Microsoft and ePals are working together to offer schools and districts interoperable products and tools for building educational communities, delivering high-quality content and facilitating collaboration.

National Geographic and ePals are continually collaborating to create and distribute high-quality digital content to bring unique learning experiences to learners around the globe.

ePals was the first educational application dedicated to creating a school-safe online environment on the Intel-powered classmate PC.

The Gabriel Piedrahita-Uribe Foundation and ePals are working together to bring high-quality content to Eduteka.org, the Foundation's website. Through ePals' Spanish language portal, Bienvenido, educators and their students can connect and collaborate in Spanish.

Ideas for Getting Started with ePals

I became greatly interested in ePals Global Community™, because it is offered at no cost to classrooms.

As it turned out, it consists of more than 600,000 educators and reaches more than 25 million students and parents in 200 countries and territories.

Educators can find email-based collaborative projects with digital content from National Geographic; forums for students, teachers and families to participate in discussions with peers worldwide; classroom Match which helps educators connect with other classrooms by searching ePals profiles based on project topic, student age range, country, language and more; school-safe email for monitored communication between students and their ePals.

First of all, I signed in ePals Global Community™ and created my students` accounts. EPals allows teachers to monitor student email accounts. Monitoring enables you to preview students’ incoming and outgoing email messages; ensure that messages are appropriate to age, setting and context. In other words, it safely brings email technology into your classroom.

With the purpose of contacting classrooms, I submitted my own classroom profile: http://www.epals.com/profile/view/516813

In the very beginning, I was trying to find a class from any part of the world for my class to exchange letters. Thus, we found friends from Canada, Spain, France, Japan, Australia, Portugal and the USA.

We decided to initiate a project in which our students would correspond via email. Its main objective was to help students to improve their writing and reading skills through this medium. The project was carried out in the first semester of 2010/11. The correspondence began after we had briefly oriented our students on how to use email and assigned each participant a partner. I let my students choose their personal epals from different countries. This resulted in quite good rates of reply and continuing correspondence. All the writing topics were chosen and agreed upon by teachers, as they were part of our class curriculums (About Myself ; School Life; My native place; Free time; Holidays; Culture and traditions). They and I have made a lot of nice activities with our classes: emails, photos and letters exchange. Also, my students and their Portuguese peers sent each other “a culture box”, which had items related to our culture such as music CDs, our flag, pictures, brochures and souvenirs.

The project proved to be worthwhile and even though the students were writing only informal messages to each other, it gave them the opportunity to practice reading and writing, and use English not to communicate with the teacher in contrived environment, but as an authentic medium for expressing their ideas, thoughts and beliefs to a real audience.

Collaborative activities

ePals engages educators to cooperate in different kinds of projects and activities.

My students and I take part in a collaborative activity of the ePals Global Community. It focuses on who we are as a community. We submitted three PowerPoint  Presentations:

The Way We Say "Hello!" (How do we say "Hi" in our country?)

http://www.epals.com/media/p/245945.aspx

The Way We Eat (What are the traditional foods or meals in our country?)

http://www.epals.com/media/p/263547.aspx

The Way We Celebrate (What holidays or events do we celebrate in our country?)

http://www.epals.com/media/p/267147.aspx

We are the first group from Ukraine to participate!

The United Nations has declared 2011 the International Year of Forests. Protecting endangered species is one great reason to learn about the natural world. In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, one of the greatest sources of knowledge in the world, ePals presents the Students REACT activities:

Talk About It!

(We can join Smithsonian Chat on ePals Student forums and discuss important topics, share perspectives and take fun polls)

Featured Photos

(We can share pictures of our natural world with ePals from all over the world!)

Be a Museum Expert 

(We can create a scientific drawing of a plant)

The SHOUT online conference events

(We can learn more and interact directly with scientists and other experts as well as teachers and students around the world!)

We registered as a Smithsonian Classroom and received a digital Smithsonian Classroom certificate. By becoming a Smithsonian Classroom, my students and I pledge to uphold the Smithsonian's mission, which is "the increase and diffusion of knowledge."  In addition, by making this pledge, we are representing our country in the ePals Global Community.  

We want to show foreign students round our country and its nature. That is why we have created some collages:

Incredible Ukraine

http://www.epals.com/media/p/266718.aspx

Endangered species of Ukraine: PLANTS

http://www.epals.com/media/p/267809.aspx

Endangered species of Ukraine: MAMMALS

http://www.epals.com/media/p/267807.aspx

Endangered species of Ukraine: INSECTS

http://www.epals.com/media/p/267806.aspx

Endangered species of Ukraine: FISH

http://www.epals.com/media/p/267805.aspx

Endangered species of Ukraine: BIRDS

http://www.epals.com/media/p/267804.aspx

My students have earned a Smithsonian Star for completing these activities. Now we are working at the project “Saving Species” by the Smithsonian Institution.


        We hope to become an
ePals Classroom of the Month soon. Classrooms are selected from those that participate in the We Are ePals Global Community Collaborative Activity. Featured Classrooms come from all over the world and are chosen to showcase the diversity of perspectives that contribute to making ePals “Where Learners Connect.”
http://www.epals.com/media/g/featuredclassrooms/default.aspx

As I believe that such activities are one of best ways of using technology in language teaching and learning, I will continue working with them, and intend to deepen my studies of the benefits they bring to students.

Conclusion

The examples above are only a few of the many projects available to foreign language educators. Perhaps the future will hold many additional possibilities for making the world smaller and the opportunities for teaching and learning foreign languages much greater.

I’m sure that foreign language educators are in the unique position of being able to bring the world to their classrooms via the new telecommunications technologies. The more enthusiastic and more knowledgeable we are, the more successfully we can implement Internet in the language classroom.

The World Wide Web offers a vast array of resources from throughout the world. Your students can use web pages as authentic materials for conducting research on culture and current events or for gathering material for class projects and simulations. They can also publish their own work on the World Wide Web, thus enabling writing for a real audience. In some cases, teachers have created in-class online newsletters or magazines that their classes have produced. In other cases, teachers help their students contribute to international web magazines, which include articles from many students around the world. And in other situations, students work together in collaborative teams internationally and then publish the results of their projects on the Web.

I hope to encourage other teachers to enhance their usage of the Internet and to discover how easy it can be not only to make the best possible uses of the new tools available to us, but also to prepare our students better to participate in the global community.

References

Saad AlKahtani. Teaching ESL Reading Using Computers. The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. V, No. 11, November 1999;

Aaron Patric Campbell.Weblogs for Use with ESL Classes. The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. IX, No. 2, February 2003;

Demski, J. (2008, November). E-Palling around. THE Journal. Available:

http://thejournal.com/articles/2008/11/01/epalling-around.aspx

Chris Higgins. Computer-Assisted Language Learning: Current Programs and Projects. Online Resources: Digests;

Laurence Peters. The rise of the globally connected student. eSchoolNews, Wed, Oct 21, 2009;

Meena Singhal .The Internet and Foreign Language Education: Benefits and Challenge.s The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. III, No. 6, June 1997;

A Quick Start Guide for ePals Teachers :Using ePals SchoolMail and Global Community. ePals, Inc. – Teacher Quick Start Guide V.2.0 August 2010;

 Global Citizens. Digital Citizens. Achieving the National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS-T) by Using ePals with Students. 13625-A Dulles Technology Drive • Herndon, VA 20171 USA


 

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